Town Hall Explores Expanding Visitor Services in National Parks
A featured part of the National Park Hospitality Association’s Fall 2013 meeting was a national town hall hosted by U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). Congressman Grijalva (pictured right) serves as Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee overseeing the National Park Service. The Congressman set the stage for the session by noting that concessioners serve a large segment of all visitors to national park units – providing lodging and food, retail offerings like souvenirs and supplies, and transportation. He then invited concessioners to outline strategies for expanding and enhancing park experiences.
Bruce Fears, President of ARAMARK Parks and Destinations and a NPHA Vice Chairman, noted that expanding and revising visitor services in national parks is a decentralized, complex process. He compared the challenges in parks to traditional constraints at ski areas on national forests involving expansion of summer season recreation offerings, noting that recent Congressional action has specifically authorized new services under existing ski area permits.
The first presentation was by Chris Belland, the concessioner operating the Yankee Freedom high-speed ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park, who described proposals to increase the number of ferry passengers and enhance visitor experiences with glass-bottom boats and more. See Chris’s presentation here.
Alex Klein of Grand Teton Lodge Company described three proposed visitor enhancements: bike rentals; a food truck; and park photos. See Alex’s presentation here.
John Schoppmann of Forever Resorts outlined proposals for extending the season at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim and offering a new rent-a-tent program in several parks in cooperation with The Coleman Company. See John’s presentation here.
Terry MacRae of Hornblower Cruises outlined proposals to extend operating hours at Alcatraz Island and the Statue of Liberty, mitigate bottlenecks, and aid story-telling by adding food service in the prison cafeteria. Terry’s presentation can be viewed here.
Other presentations were made by Jim Houser of Delaware North Parks and Resorts, Aaron Wodin-Schwartz of Brand USA, and Nancy Logan and Jamie Patten of The Student Conservation Association.
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"Every opportunity should be afforded the public, wherever possible, to enjoy the national parks in the manner that best satisfies the individual taste."
-Franklin K. Lane
Secretary of the Interior's Letter on National Park Management to
National Park Service Director Stephen Mather
May 13, 1918